As the cliche goes, defense wins championships and on Saturday afternoon Banning proved that against Trinity during the CIF-Southern Section Division 5A Championship Game.
The Broncos didn’t take home the title without a fight from Trinity, but ultimately the fourth quarter comeback came up short and the Knights fell 43-48 at Godinez Fundamental High School.
Both teams played solid defense in the first quarter. Neither the Broncos or the Knights could get an open look on the basket and the first points weren’t scored until over two minutes into the game.
Banning junior Amari Callender was a huge problem for the Knights. When they did manage to get a good look, he came up to block the shot.
The first quarter ended with Banning up 6-7.
Trinity gave itself hope at the title by sticking to what it knows. Its defense held the Broncos to the lowest point total they have seen in their last 10 games.
“I think one of the keys defensively for us was stopping their dribble penetration,” said Trinity head coach Aaron Southwick. “I thought protecting the paint and limiting buckets around the rim was a big part of our defense.”
They also limited Callender to just six points.
“They did a really good job of focusing on Amari,” said Banning head coach Cory Cornelius. “But this team is nine guys, ten guys deep that are ready to play at the varsity level. We were able to continue throwing bodies at them.”
However, misfortune came with a three-pronged point. When the Bronco defense wasn’t stepping up, the Trinity offense was committing unforced errors. The Knights were plagued by turnovers throughout the first three quarters.
“It’s tough to win ball games when you turn the ball over,” Southwick said.
Trinity also lost focus on the defensive end. Banning wasn’t scoring often, but the Knights struggled to recover defensive rebounds, giving the Broncos multiple chances to score time and time again.
A combination of the three pillars of misfortune caused the Knights to fall behind 8-16 at the half.
Woes continued for the Knights in the third quarter. Trinity fans were visibly frustrated as they watched their team fall apart after an outstanding season. What started out as a possible Trinity comeback, soured when the Broncos began to respond again.
Banning led the Knights by a game-high 15 points at the end of the third quarter. The frame ended 22-37.
The Knights offense gained traction in the final act, largely due to the monster performance senior Kyle Fields (21 points) orchestrated. He scored 12 of Trinity’s 18 points in the fourth quarter, all from 3-pointers – three points came as free throws after he was fouled at the 3-point line.
“Fields stepped up and hit some tough 3-pointers,” Cornelius said. “He showed why they were a No. 2 seed. He really competed.”
With a strong defense and an offense that finally awoke from its slumber, the Knights were able to bring the game within three points. Fields continued to land clutch shots and with each missed Banning free throw, the thought of Trinity squeaking away with a CIF-SS title seemed more believable.
“It was exciting. We made a game out of it,” Southwick said. “I would give a big shout out to Kyle down the stretch. I was really proud of him and happy for him tonight.”
However, a rebound, followed by a jumper, from Callender iced the game, and stunted the Trinity comeback.
Despite the loss, the Knights still qualified for the CIF-State Tournament. Pairings for the tournament are released on Sunday.